That the national lockdown is set to be downgraded from level five to level four on Friday 1 May 2020 represents only a faint light at the end of the tunnel for the crucial automotive sector. Manufacturing can start to ramp up again but dealerships must remain shut until level three is announced. This puts a heap of pressure on a sector of the economy that contributes close to seven percent of GDP, providing employment (directly and indirectly) to close to 500 000 people. With so many businesses closed, the livelihood of many a family is in danger.
What about servicing of vehicles?
Although the support of essential service vehicles is allowed, many vehicles in private hands are now exceeding service mileage, and especially, service periods. Many manufacturers have extended service plans and warranties because of the pandemic but this does not solve the inherit problem. There is an urgent need from a financial and technical point of view to get the wheels of the automotive sector turning.
Parking a vehicle is not a good idea
Cars are designed to be able to be parked for up to a month with no issues but any longer may lead to problems. Even parking a new vehicle for extended periods is not a good idea as:
- Battery voltage may run low and trigger other electronic fault in modern vehicles.
- Brakes may start to bind.
- Fluids (fuel, lubricants and coolant) will start to chemically break down.
- Aircon system may start to lose its gas as the seals may dry out if not operated.
- Tyre pressure may start to drop under specification.
- Corrosion can start to set in on parts normally covered with oil or other fluids.
What can you do to care for your car
As lockdown is set to continue for some time, it's a good idea to keep the following in mind:
- Fit a trickle charger to keep the battery topped up or charge once a week with a normal charger.
- Use the car once a week to go to the shops for essentials and try to keep the engine running until up to temperature.
- Idling the engine of a vehicle for extended periods must be seen as a last resort as it takes a very long time for the engine to reach operating temperature. Normally it would take more than 10 minutes of idling just to replace the electric energy in the battery used for the start event.
- Monitor tyre pressures and move the vehicle a few metres once week, if possible.
- Look out for rats (and other animals) that may gnaw electrical wires while the vehicle is parked.
CAR’s technical editor was once the senior vehicle integration engineer on Optimal Energy’s Joule electric car and had stints with Ford (UK), Integral Powertrain (UK) and CAE. He completed his MSc in mechanical engineering in 2004, obtained UK Chartered Engineering status in 2009 and is a judge of the International Engine of the Year competition.